[NOTE: This post is intended as a supplement to ‘Assessing Ariza.’]
Another huge misconception that is fueling the unwarranted expectations lies within the distinction between ‘creating’ and ‘slashing.’
Most fans see instances of ‘slashing’ and either presume that it is the same thing as ‘creating’ or rather that it is indicative of the ability to ‘create’. In the minds of the average fan, it almost seems that there is an assumed ‘Battier-McGrady Dichotomy’ wherein every perimeter player is either completely rooted to the ground or has the full blown ability to create off the dribble.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In actuality, the abilities of players to drive with a basketball can be demarcated through a continuum ranging from Battier to McGrady at each extreme.
It’s understandable that Houston Rockets fans hold such a mistaken belief as, until Von Wafer last year, this team really hasn’t had any capable ‘slashers’ since Mario Elie. Every perimeter player has been either a standstill shooter such as Jon Barry or a full blown ‘creator’ such as Mike James, Steve Francis, and McGrady etc. There haven’t really been ‘in-betweens’ up until now.
Like Wafer, Trevor lies in that ‘in between’ range which characterizes ‘slashing.’ What this means is that unlike Battier, he can still drive to the basket and score. However, this is not ‘creating’ nor is it indicative of the ability to ‘create.’
When Ariza or Wafer drive to the basket, they are either attacking the defense as it rotates or they are utilizing picks set by their teammates.
There is nothing wrong with this as Trevor’s ‘slashing’ will be a huge boon for the team. However, the distinction between ‘slashing’ and ‘creating’ is not merely a matter of semantics.
It is important to identify this distinction for the purpose of reining in expectations because the same plot unfolded last year with Wafer.
Fans observed his superb slashing ability and complained aloud as to why he was never given the opportunity to create off the dribble to close out games.
A player who ‘creates’ off the dribble does not need special circumstances to weave his way to the basket. Players who merely ‘slash’ are usually using their athleticism and quickness to beat their defender after the latter is out of position.
Players who ‘create’ can face up a defender while in a standstill position and advance past him to the spot of their choice by utilizing an assortment of moves from the spin, the cross-over, to the behind the back dribble etc. In a nutshell, players who ‘create’ can go where they want, whenever they want, and however they want. They are not constrained by the positioning of the defense.
We saw what happened last year when Wafer faced up Vujacic and attempted to shake free from his defense. I hadn’t seen such complete ownage by a perimeter defender since Vernon Maxwell’s 1994 semifinals against Dan Majerle.
The sentiment is already beginning to rear its head, but I do predict that on the basis of his prolific slashes to the hoop, there will be calls to allow Trevor Ariza to close out games off the dribble. Either when it’s attempted and he proves incapable or when he isn’t even given the chance, there will be general disappointment.
I am not against giving Ariza the chance to succeed, but fans should be cognizant of his limitations and not feel disappointment when their unrealistic expectations are not met.